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Paris aims to have world's top fashion school

The new school encourages diversity through scholarships
The new school encourages diversity through scholarships ©Benoit Bethume and Estelle Hanania

France has officially launched a new fashion school in Paris. A merger between two existing schools, the Institut français de la mode aims to make Paris the world's capital of fashion education. And that includes educating students in how to make the industry more sustainable.

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Paris Fashion Week has kicked off and there's little doubt Paris is one of, if not the, world's fashion capital. But so far it's not a leader in fashion education.

The French government wants that to change.

"France doesn't have GAFA [Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon] but it does have the biggest luxury brands," finance minister Bruno Le Maire announced at the Institut Français de la mode official launch on 8 January.

"Fashion has proven a huge French success story over the last 10 years. Let's be proud of that," he added, "and proud to inaugurate what is going to be the best fashion school in the world."

Two schools of expertise under one roof

New courses will include a Bachelor of Arts in Fashion Design (in French and English) and a Master of Arts in Fashion Design (100% in English).

The school, which will welcome its first students this Autumn, is a merger between the existing Institut français de la mode (IFM) and the Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne (ECSCP) founded back in 1927.

IFM is famous for its design and management programme while ECSCP, whose former pupils include Valentino and Yves St Laurent, is prized for its teaching of technique.

Bringing the two schools together is "gathering under one roof the three pillars that are actually making our sector," says Hans de Foer, head of post-grad design at IFM. That's to say design, know-how and management.

"And having these three pillars under the same roof makes it also possible for students to work together in close to real life situations, for them to understand how it’s actually functioning afterwards. It's like preparing people to hit the ground running."

Creativity and business sense

The fashion industry employs some 580,000 people and the school aims to prepare students to enter that job market. It has partnerships with the likes of Palais de Tokyo and Cinématheque de Paris and close contact with big fashion houses.

"We’re supported by all the main fashion houses," explains de Foer, "luxury houses, affordable luxury houses, the fashion groups ... they're backing our school and our scholarships, making it possible for designers to come and study here in the first place.

"But they are also very close to our teacher team in order to be able to pick up the talent they need for their studios and teams."

Fashion one of the most polluting industries

One of the school's slogans is "the future of future fashion" but the fashion industry's future will require it to be more responsible and environmentally-friendly.

According to the Pulse of the Fashion Industry Report published by the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, fashion is responsible for 92 million tons of solid waste dumped in landfills each year; in 2015 the textile sector emitted 1.715 million tons of CO2 and used 79 billion cubic metres of water.

A duty to teach sustainablity

"It's up to the new generation to take that into account and it's our duty to guide them there," de Foer says.

He highlights working on more eco-friendly materials, how to reduce waste, thinking about pricing, consumption, packaging and a major in digital image design which will be kinder to rainforests.

Notions of sustainability will feed into the whole programme so students can "adjust their work, their collections and combine that with their creative projects.

"It’s mainly giving them all the tools to come up with sustainable projects."

Tools they can work on in the school''s fablab for example.

"We're facing major problems on resources," he says. "I think if we don't go [down that road] we're going to face major problems and as a learning institution we have to think about that and to prepare young designers for this future."

Click here for more information on the school.

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